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Initial post: 13 Jun 2007 12:09:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jun 2007 12:27:41 BDT
Malkmus fan says:
........hello.

The earth was created in 6 days. Sounds plausible to me. The work was undertaken by a guy calld God apparentely. Or is it a girl called God? Or something else that just so happens to be called God but doesn't really have a form? This information is never really made clear. All quite reasonable so far and in every way possible totally believable. Honestly.

Skip a few centuries. The Earth is populated by beings known as humans now. The original female of the species was created from the rib of the male obviously. Humans managed to breed for a while after being tricked by a snake into committing the worst crime imaginable. Eating an apple.

"Those humans" thought God to him/her/its self. "Getting a bit too big for their boots IMHO. Better keep them on their toes a bit by flooding the entire planet and killing them all. Apart from 2 of every single species of animal and the first human i can find capable of building an ark big enough for them all to sail on of course."

The task was undertaken by Noah. Clarification was required on the point of 2 of every species but God was quite insistent. Even the water vole. The Ark sailed around a bit and a jolly time was had by all. Then some other stuff probably happened that I have no idea about and the new testament began.

Animals had become less intelligent in the new testament. Snakes couldn't talk anymore for example. In fact all animals had reverted to pretty much the same state we see them in today. Thanks to Noah's heroics the water vole had flourished.

God was getting nervous again however. The humans needed him/her/it to be a little bit closer to them so as to keep an eye on them better so he/she/it came up with a cunning plan.

He impregnated a human female with his son, who was also at the same time him/her/its self and even more amazingly he did this without resorting to the tried and trusted method. Less fun for all concerned but a neat trick if you can pull it off.

Things went pretty much as planned. Jesus, because that was his name, delighted huge crowds with his much talked about magic shows. Memorable favourites included walking on water, water into wine and feeding a load of beggars with some bread and fish. Aside from these more well known feats he was also a renowned escape artist and a master of misdirection. You had to keep your wits about you when Jesus was around or before you knew it your watch would be in his pocket. Of course he always gave it back.

Jesus confided in his close friends that all of his major miracles were accomplished with the help of really, really thin pieces of string, strategically placed mirrors and the general massive stupidity of the people at the time.

Eventually Jesus met his demise. After tipping over some tables he was sentenced to death by crucifixion.

A few days later he put his talent for escapology to good use and went and said goodbye to a few close mates.

Since then religion has flourished. All around the world millions of people dedicate a couple of hours every Sunday to sitting in a cold, old building and allow a man to shout at them a bit. It's all good fun of course and not to be taken seriously.
........................................................

Do not be offended religious types. I want your feedback. Will my mockery send me straight to Hell? Personally I know it won't because Hell does not exist but if it makes you happy to think it does then good luck to you.

In any case i'm just as fervent in my beliefs as you are. Mine just happen to be correct and more easily proven by an evil invention of the Devil known as Science.

I hope this doesn't get removed. I don't think anybody has a case to report abuse because I haven't been abusive. As a matter of fact I find most religious statements by people defending their faith offensive to mine. Atheism.

I don't need some imaginary bloke in the sky to tell me not to kill people. I picked up that vital bit of info at a fairly young age. I also don't need a religion to be a good person. I just am. Life is easier that way.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jun 2007 16:29:40 BDT
RL says:
You wrote: 'In fact all animals had reverted to pretty much the same state we see them in today'.

Does this mean they didn't evolve?

;-)

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jun 2007 16:46:26 BDT
"Mine just happen to be correct and more easily proven by an evil invention of the Devil known as Science."

Oh, well done, sir! (Or is it ma'am? Actually probably sir - women are generally more concerned for other people's feelings than you are, apparently). That's good. If you can prove your philosophical worldview, as you claim, then you can do something that no other philosopher throughout history has been able to. Ever. I'll look forward to the blockbuster, and you can doubtless look forward to your name and fame comfortably eclipsing that of Dawkins, Plato, Descartes and Wittgenstein.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jun 2007 17:50:46 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Jun 2007 18:04:49 BDT
RL says:
You wrote " Mine just happen to be correct and more easily proven by an evil invention of the Devil known as Science."

You are a being of remarkable faith. Your belief that science can 'prove' that your atheism is correct is bold. You should be aware that science can prove nothing and only disprove a theory. This forms the core of the scientific method.

I believe passionately in Science too. Personally, I wouldn't advise thinking too deeply about the nature of information, thought processes, pure and applied mathematics or studying the likes of Einstein too carefully, it might clash with your faith.

You wrote: "all of his major miracles were accomplished with the help of really, really thin pieces of string, strategically placed mirrors and the general massive stupidity of the people at the time"

Nothing changes eh?!

Thanks for brightening up an otherwise dull afternoon!!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2007 03:00:19 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jun 2007 03:01:11 BDT
ravenheart says:
"As a matter of fact I find most religious statements by people defending their faith offensive to mine. Atheism."

This is a very good point, and one I have been making for years. How has it come to be, in this World of equality, that we can't go around telling everyone God doesn't exist, because it offends Christians, yet they can merrily go around saying he does, and that's OK? What if that offends the rest of us?

Can you imagine the fall-out if I went and stood in the middle of Piccadilly Circus with a megaphone and started preaching to the crowds about the non-existence of God and how Jesus enjoyed his little holiday, but has since declared "Earth's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there", and isn't coming back?

Do the same things but say, "you're all sinners, but it's OK, God will forgive you" and I'd be fine.

I'm going to start passing a collection tray around at heavy metal concerts, I think.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2007 09:33:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jun 2007 09:36:27 BDT
You are talking rubbish. What you are saying is factually completely wrong.

People can not only say in public that God doesn't exist, they are given prime time television slots to say that belief in God is stupid, and people who encourage children to belief in God are worse than child abusers.

In the South of England, a street preacher - who was a pensioner - was roughed up by a group of gay men because of what he was saying, and then HE was arrested for a breach of the peace. In Australia and Canada, prosecutions are being brought against people who present the Christian message, by people who consider it to be "hatespeak". In the UK, political parties are allowed to discriminate politically in considering who they employ, but for a long time it looked as though the law was going to suggest that religious organisations would not be allowed to safeguard the nature of their organisation by discriminating amongst possible candidates for posts, or being able to remove somebody from a post if it turned out that they no longer believed things that were consistent with the nature of the organisation.

Oddly enough, tolerance of other opinions was introduced into this country by non-conformist, evangelical Christians after the Reformation. It was this that ensured that the bloodletting between protestants and catholics stopped in England. But post-modern tolerance is something completely different - it is more appropriate to label it as "indifference" - you can believe anything you like as long as it doesn't affect anyone.

Here is a link to a collection of information about the case of the pensioner who was arrested for being heckled: http://www.rasmusen.org/x/2005/11/17/being-heckled-by-homosexuals-is-a-crime-in-england-the-hammond-case/

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jun 2007 10:28:24 BDT
Malkmus fan says:
"As a matter of fact I find most religious statements by people defending their faith offensive to mine. Atheism."

Allow me to rephrase that.

I take offense at the people who put the blame for all of the ills of the modern world at the lack of religion in todays youth.

Every night without fail there will be at least one letter to my local paper complaining about youths who have smashed up a bus stop or set fire to a dog or somesuch. Most of them are from the typical idiot who likes it when things like this happen so they can write to the paper and complain about how things aren't like they used to be and so forth. Occasionally however the blame will be placed squarely at the lack of religion in childrens lives nowadays. It would seem that going to church on a Sunday and believing in some huge, great bearded chap sitting on a cloud will cure the modern youth of all his or her criminal tendencies. These opinions are almost always expressed as cold hard facts. The truth is simple.

Modern Britain has become overrun with chavs. I know lots of these people (who doesn't nowadays?) and happen to know that quite a lot of them consider themselves religious. Christians in the main but you do get the odd Muslim. I very much doubt any of them ever go to church but they believe in the aforementioned bearded chap on his cloud. Yet still they commit robbery, burglary, arson and assault. Especially assault. The reason for this is that they are stupid, braindead, knuckledraggers.

The people I associate with are mostly atheists. I don't know any really really religious people. Just a few who believe in God but don't take an active part in religion. Because we are not stupid chavs we only break speeding laws and from time to time we have been known to partake in the imbibing of fumes that are produced when one of God's creations is wrapped up in a thin sheet of paper and set fire to. As a group we all realise that if you are nice to people generally people will be nice to you. I suppose this is a religious ideal too but as far as i'm concerned it's just common sense. It is just a shame that the world we live in now is full of people far too stupid to understand this.

In a nutshell I don't believe that is neccessary to be religious in order to be a good person and it really does annoy me when i'm told otherwise. I could really go into detail but this site has guidelines regarding objectionable content and because of the sensitivity of most religious people I think I would be in breach of them.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jun 2007 18:04:44 BDT
Actually, I agree with you in large measure - you don't need to be religious to be good. I'm not religious. I am a Christian, though.

However, I'm interested in your epistemology. Why do you feel the need to justify yourself? Why does it matter whether you are good or not? Do you think your attitude towards other people ("chavs", "idiots", "knuckledraggers") is "good"? If so, how do you define "good", and why should I accept your definition?

And why is "the golden rule" "common sense"? Or are you just trying to be seen to be being nice to people, when in reality you would be quite happy to score one over them, if you thought you could get away with it? Is this the same as herd instinct? Is the heroism displayed by soldiers herd instinct? The self-sacrifice displayed by nurses?

As an alternative to Dawkins, and for further consideration of these questions, you might like to try "Darwinian Fairytales" by David Stove - who, incidentally, is not religious, and not a Christian either.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jun 2007 14:19:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Jun 2007 17:50:38 BDT
Hello

The word "hell" is found in many Bible translations. In the same verses other translations read "the grave," "the world of the dead, and so forth. Other Bibles simply transliterate the original-language word that are sometimes rendered "hell"; that is, they express them with the letters of our alphabet but leave the words untranslated. What are those words? The Hebrew she'ohl' and its Greek equivalent hai'des, which refer, not to an individual burial place, but to the common grave of dead mankind; also the Greek ge'enna, which is used as a symbol of eternal destruction. However, both in Christendom and in many non-Christian religions it is taught that hell is a place inhabited by demons and where the wicked, after death, are punished (and some believe that this is with torment). But the real roots of this God-dishonoring doctrine go much deeper. The fiendish concepts associated with a hell of torment slander God and originate with the chief slanderer of God (the Devil, which name means "Slanderer"), the one whom Jesus Christ called "the father of the lie."-Joh 8:44.

You said.... 'I want your feedback. Will my mockery send me straight to Hell? Personally I know it won't because Hell does not exist:-)'

Then you have answered your own questionso why ask for feedback? I think that there are many people in this world who find themselves in a place of misery torment or 'hell'. So perhaps you should consider yourself fortunate? But then can you predict where you will be tomorrow or what will happen to you?

Kind regards

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jul 2007 23:48:47 BDT
First of all, the old testament dates back to Egypt, what with Moses liberating the Jews from Egypt - at that time, the general ideas about the creation of the world, in any culture, were at a similar level of imagination. Aboriginees believed something along the lines that a giant cosmic snake created everything, starting with the water (not sure entirely, but something like that). Expecting to find a realistic explanation for the creation of the world back then is simply not ... well, realistic. Besides, I don't think that many wars have ever been fought over differences in Genesis stories between religions. It is usually something more tangible, like oil or land.

You talk about God as 'a guy' or 'a girl', but careful reading of the new testament reveals that God is neither. Some people come up to Jesus and ask: "So, how do we get to Heaven? Which way do we travel?" and Jesus says: "Well, you do not get to Heaven by travel, it exists WITHIN you and BETWEEN you." Since God is in Heaven, and Heaven is WITHIN and BETWEEN us, that must also be where God is - not in outer space, like some asteroid - has science ever observed an asteroid floating around inside someone or between two people? Hardly, but let me know. It is just a childish way of looking at the teachings in the Bible, when one claims that God floats around in space, brought on by not reading carefully enough. Also, the new testament could be more clear on this I feel, which is perhaps it's greatest shortcoming - a lack of clarity. At the end of one of the Gospels it also says that not all the books in the world could contain all the things that Jesus said, so it is fair to say that the new testament is an incomplete guide to Jesus, or at least not as good as it could have been. His greatest hits, perhaps, but not all the details. You must bear this in mind when you read the bible.

Having studied buddhism extensively, I feel that I can shed some further light on the nature of God, as something that exists within us. According to the law of karma, bad deeds are punished and good deeds are rewarded - see, for example, in the verses of the Dhammapada, a buddhist classic which is available for free download many places on the web, a very good one can be found at www.buddhanet.net, it is located somewhere in their e-book download section, and it is called 'Illustrated Dhammapada'. Well, I have observed my own mind and heart carefully and honestly in mindfulness exercises (as recommended by the Buddha), and whenever I treat someone badly, for a time after that, I treat myself badly, neglect myself or even do something which hurts myself. Contrary, when I do something good it opens me up, and I start automatically and without effort to do good things for myself. Careful observation of MYSELF and NOTHING ELSE has convinced me of the truth of this. THAT is what God is, as he exists within me - he is that very thing within me which causes me to punish myself when I do bad, and reward myself when I do good. God is the principle of justice that my heart and soul naturally and inevitably adheres to. Only observation of yourself will convince you of this, so I recommend that very much as a spiritual exercise. Seeing the truth of this will set you free from evil, which is what causes suffering in life. Good luck with that, I hope that you will do this, as it is very rewarding.

Eating the apple, I don't know what it means. But the whole 'do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden' seems to ring to me do not let sexual desires take over - the tree could represent the genitals, in the middle of the garden, and the apple the 'sweet fruit' of reckless sexuality. After all, a tree could symbolically represent a penis. So, something like do not let yourselves be led astray by sexual impulses - which seems to be in key with world religions world-wide. The snake also could be a phallic symbol. Just a thought. Also, it is from the old testament. I mean, don't expect too much in terms of clarity from something written 1500 BC or something.

Flooding the world can refer to a natural disaster, for example, at the end of the last ice age, when the ice retreated (and so melted), a lot of land would be flooded by the massive amounts of glazial water (I would think, not an expert). And, in the way that children sometimes think that when their parents quarrel, that it is their fault, I think that perhaps this was a case of some grown ups with a lot of guilt, who then attributed a natural disaster to some sort of just entity outside themselves - boohoo, we had it coming kind-of. Well, again, I have never heard anybody go to war because of the Flooding, it seems to be a rather obscure, and rarely used piece of scripture. I have never heard of something like that, a war on another country because they did not believe in that single story. So is it all that important? I, for one, am moving on.

Saying that Jesus was some sort of magician, I feel, is quite wrong. Implying that he stole from people is sheer idiocy, since he says somewhere that he has come to perfect the law (thou shalt not steal from the ten commandments is the law that we are talking about), not to break it down, and because he seems in every instance to do the right thing, above and beyond what anybody at the time (and ever since, I would almost say) have done. Besides, you can't find any scriptural reference to Jesus pick-pocketing the coins off of some poor beggar or something. If you can, let me know. Good luck finding it, by the way. Don't slander, by the way, Buddha says it is bad for your mental health, something that you can pick up on if you are attentive anough. In my case, it usually makes me needlessly angry, making me rather bad company. The people that I really want in my life start leaving then, which is quite a big punishment, I think, but there is some justice in it, at least I can see that (of course only that grievously if slandering is a BIG habit).

Jesus wasn't crucified for turning over some tables, again, reading the new testament carefully will reveal that it started about the time when he said to the crowds that their "righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, or they will never get to Heaven", implying very strongly that these people, the scribes and the Pharisees, were not suitable for their jobs as priests at all - perhaps some were peadophiles? Does that sound too unlikely - who knows..? He basically ruffled the feathers of the priests of the time. Because he made them look bad by saying that they were simply not good enough, they wanted to kill him - so that they could remain in power, though undeserving of it, probably. It also says somewhere, that "since then they were always looking for an excuse to kill him". The excuse they used for killing him was that he had said that he was the Son of God - which they considered blasphemy, and so they used that to justify a crucifixion. A pretty lame excuse, I feel. But the New Testament is about the religion of Jesus, not about that of his murderers, so that doesn't matter.

Also, Pontius Pilate, I think, said that HE could find no guilt with Jesus, and that it was the Jews own decision to kill him (goaded on by the scribes and the pharisees) - the whole 'I wash my hands clear of this' refers to this, he will not have the blood of Jesus on his hands, it falls entirely on the Jews what happens to Jesus.

The conclusion that I have reached is that Jesus, a very just person, was killed by a lot of injust people. He helped many people, and never, as far as I know, hurt anybody, except some pigs, which he allowed some insane people to attack.

Also, there is a new translation of the bible by George M. Lamsa, where he corrects some long-standing mistranslations in the bible. It is rather disconcerting that we may have gone to war in the past over poor translations of the bible. Now THAT is scary. Much of it is the same, though, but there are some obvious blunders, which when translated properly help in gaining a more natural understanding.

Anyways, I have though a lot about it, I have also read quite a bit of Hinduism, and have recently, less succesfully though, taken up the Koran, but so far I only have a poor translation, so it is rather tedious and uninspiring. If you have more questions, please feel free to post them. I like an open-minded discussion, after all, the truth shall set you free.

Sincerely, a guy who loves scripture, and the spirit of scripture.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jul 2007 10:21:59 BDT
I have much time for a lot of what you say. However, you have to be careful about imposing your own filter on the scriptures you claim to love. For example, if it wasn't for Freud (who was a pretty mixed-up dude himself) would we really think that the "forbidden fruit" was anything to do with sex?

You might also be interested in what Bono says about Karma and grace in "Bono on Bono":

... at the centre of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics - in physical laws - every action is met by an equal or [sic] an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "As you reap, so will you sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.... I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jul 2007 00:23:35 BDT
I agree wholeheartedly that it is not a given that the interpretation of the whole garden of Eden-scene may be wrong (which I also write that I feel it may very well be - I basically say that I don't know what it means, but here's my version), though it does seem to fit very nicely with it. Also, it just came in a moment of inspiration, where things seemed to fit together. Of course, calling it the "Tree of Knowledge" seems to be a bit at odds with the interpretation that I have given - but according to the story, the knowledge that they got were that they were 'naked', they started wearing a leaf to cover up. So, perhaps it is a story about becoming aware of the fact that you can misuse sexual energy, and that when you do, you get thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

Personally, I had a relationship with a girl I met at a salsa-dancing lesson, and though I had issues that should have had me saying no having sex with her (mental problems - I told her, by the way, about it as best I could, but it didn't change me), we did so anyway - which led to me leaving her after not too much time, I just couldn't stand looking at her or being around her anymore, because it wasn't right. In the end, the experience makes me cringe, because it wasn't right on the inside, and I lost a girl because sex was more important than the essential nature of the relationship, or the people in it. That is my definition of getting thrown out of the Garden of Eden, feeling bad about having had sex with someone. So perhaps the story could be about sex gone wrong, about abusing it without taking God into consideration, and that the consequences of it is suffering (=out of Eden, the good place) - I know that something like that happened to me, at least.

Also, I should say, that what Bono says is that it is almost like there is an alternative to the law of Karma called Grace, which just isn't true if you read buddhism. Buddhism basically states that if you do bad deeds you move into states of suffering, and that if you do good deeds then you move out of these states of suffering and into states of happiness and health. This is VERY much what I experience by paying careful attention to myself, by the way - careful OBSERVATION of myself (and also others, it works in other people's lives too, I seem to see all the time). What Bono calls Grace is basically doing good deeds, which is the positive side of the law of Karma, the REWARDING aspect of the law contraty to the PUNISHING aspect of it. It doesn't upend the whole what goes around comes around stuff - it VERIFIES it.

When you do a small bad deed to someone else, you in turn do a small bad deed to yourself. When you do a big bad deed to someone else, you in turn do a big bad deed to yourself (Judas betrayed Jesus to his death, and so comitted suicide, bringing the very same death to himself that he brought on Jesus).
When you do a small good deed to someone else, you in turn do a small good deed to yourself. When you do a big good deed to someone else, you in turn do a big good deed to yourself.
This is important to realize. It means that one should do as many small and big good deeds as possible, so as to be the best to oneself. Also, it means that you can get out of bad deeds by 'covering' them up with good deeds. The way out of guilt, since you can't change the past, is to do good things in the present, whenever possible. That way, one begins to go away from the self-punishment that comes from having done evil and start being self-rewarding. Eternal truth, this is basically undebatable by people who know truth. However, people who haven't observed things carefully, can argue endlessly about things like this. Keep quiet, and start looking real hard, and you will see the truth. It is VERIFIABLE by careful observation.

Also, Jesus didn't die FOR our sins, he died BECAUSE of them - if Jesus somehow could take up all our sins then that means that no man ANYWHERE on the planet ANYMORE should be able to feel guilt. Again, close self-observation will make you realize that this is flat-out at odds with reality. Jesus hasn't made guilt go away. Otherwise, would Judas have hung himself? Didn't Jesus take his sins with him on the cross? And what about the high-school shooters of today - they all seem to end up blowing their own heads of - didn't Jesus take their sins away on the cross? Well, maybe he did, but reality tells a different tale. Guilt still works, and can take you to a place that you don't wanna go if you don't avoid it - like blowing your own brains out because you have done something atrocious.

Anyway, nice to hear from you, it is nice to get some feedback, and I hope that this has clarified my point of view, which I hope is based on truth.

Sincerely, someone who loves scripture, and the spirit of scripture.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jul 2007 11:07:38 BDT
P. Powell says:
"According to the law of karma, bad deeds are punished and good deeds are rewarded"

Just to fill in some detail about the Buddha's teaching, karma is part of buddhist doctrine, but not the point of it. The western religious solution, that there is life after death, is the eastern religious problem. The endless cycle of rebirth that has endured since beginningless time (which involves the expansion and collapse of 10,000 fold world systems - pretty cosmic) is characterised by impermanence, suffering, and non-self. Good karma in extreme cases can result in rebirth in the heavenly realm of the gods experiencing exclusively pleasurable states, and living for 80,000 years. Extremely bad karma (such as killing your parents) can result in long stays in the hells which are exclusively painful (see Majhima Nikaya 130 for a description). None of these states are permanent, all are subject to decay.

Now as far as the Buddha is concerned these are all facets of mundane existence, not to be pursued for their own ends. The Buddha's teaching is for the purpose of unbinding ourselves from this endless cycle of suffering. Once enlightenment is attained an individual creates no more karma. He (or She) takes no futher rebirth in this sense. As for what happens to an enlightened being after death, that is one of the imponderables - they cannot be said to exist, or to not exist, or both exist and not exist, or to neither exist or not exist.

Being born in this human realm with its mix of pain and pleasure is very fortunate. It is the only realm from which it is possible (or at least relativley easy) to gain Nibbana (Nirvana). Building a positive stock of merit is important, but only as far as it is used to escape the whole process.

Two other things, according to Buddhist doctrine as I know it, there is no creator God. That is a permanent existing entity, who created the universe and now presides over it. There is also no permanent existing soul, all things are conditioned and compounded. Just to pre-empt the question of what gets reborn if there is no soul, it is like our life is a candle flame, the flame is process, not existant as a fixed entity. The transfer from life to life is kind of like lighting one candle from another. Incidentally, the literal meaning of Nibbana (Nirvana) is blowing out.

This is a really complicated area of buddhist doctrine, I have tried to balance getting the main points across with keeping it simple and legible. I sincerely hope that it is of help. Any errors are my sole responsibility.

May all beings be well, happy, and free from suffering

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jul 2007 14:13:47 BDT
The Buddha grew up at a time when there was a belief in reincarnation. I haven't. I believe that there is this one life, and when it is over, it is over - which is in key with the theory of impermanence. So I don't believe that I have to escape rebirth, since that simply doesn't fly with me - in that area, I am already home free - when I am gone, I am GONE, so I don't bother with it. If you are a modern westerner like me, then you probably believe in that (or before you took up buddhism). Also, since I don't believe in a heaven or hell after death, just an absense of 'me', then I am not too concerned about what happens then either. I am, however, intensely concerned with having a good life, and that is only possible if I do good things, and do not do bad things - treat others good, not bad, basically. I am concerned for my own soul in this very life, which I guess most people are.

Now, according to my knowledge (I read it in a free e-book called 'The Roots of Good and Evil', by Nyanaponika Thera), one definition of Nirvana is that it is the end of lust and hatred, and in this very life. For me personally, these two emotional directions are currently problems in my life, and so the teachings of the Buddha show me the way to get these things under control, so that I can live a good, ordinary, healthy life, without all the problems that prop up in the psyche when lust or hate takes over too much.

That is the kind of liberation I am looking for, basically just the layman's liberation, for now at least. Also, by being mindful I am aware not only if there is lust or hatred in me, but also what things cause them to arise, and what things cause them to go away. Basically, doing something bad to someone else causes lust or hate to spring up, and doing good causes it to go away. Now, this is basically summing up the noble eightfold path, which for many is THE core teaching of the Buddha, which starts with samma ditthi (ditthi meaning 'sight' literally), which I have translated as observation, and then moves on to right mentality, and then right speech, right action and right livelihood. This in turn leads to right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

So basically, by observing that doing bad has a detrimental effect on ones' mind (ability to put forth effort, to be mindful and to concentrate) and doing good fortifies or strengthens these very qualities, one then has a recipe for mental health, basically, which is achieved by performing right speech, right action and right livelihood. One must follow these rules to have good mental health. Try to observe yourself and others, and you will see that the people who follow these rules have better mental health, and the ones that break or violate them have worse mental health. It is just the way it is. So, by knowing this, one knows what one has to do to live a life without the mental diseases of lust or hate, which is one level of overcoming suffering - and so far, where I have to get to before looking for more advanced levels of enlightenment. From my point of view, this is the point of life, to have good health while I am here, and not to hurt others (unless for their actual and definite benefit).

What does this have to do with the whole God discussion? Well, I guess that the overall thing that I am trying to say is that even without God or Rebirth, there are still many many things in religion that make it a worthwhile study, and the atheism shouldn't discount the teachings of buddha or Jesus in their' entirety, just because there are some parts (to me very small parts) that are based on superstition. There is much to be learned from Jesus, for example, on how to treat others. Today, for example, when there is an accident on the highway, some people slow down just enough to see if there are body parts or blood around, and then speed away. Jesus shows a better path, and one worth striving for, I think.

Sincerely, ...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jul 2007 16:18:11 BDT
Ah, well, you see, whilst Buddhism has some helpful things to say, I don't believe it is right. The point about grace (versus Karma) is that it looks at the bad things I have done and *doesn't* give me what I deserve. This is radically different. That's the whole point about what Bono says, and it's why I posted it here.

Christianity is radically different to other religions because of this idea of grace - if it doesn't blow your mind, or cause you to be thoroughly outraged ("how DARE God not give people what they deserve?!"), then you probably haven't understood it. It blew the minds of the religious people at the time of Jesus. It started the Reformation in Europe. It made John Newton ("Amazing Grace"), the slave trader, campaign for the end of slavery.

Why is it so important? Because no matter how religious you are, there are things that are wrong with you. I had this conversation with some earnest Muslims a few years back - also with some Jehovah's Witnesses - how do you know you are good enough? They came back with the answer: we don't. Grace says that it's not a matter of what you have done at all. It's the fact that the penalty for the things that you have done wrong have been paid for on your behalf by somebody else. Jesus didn't die "because of" - or not only, he did die "for" me - that is, in my place.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jul 2007 15:00:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jul 2007 15:19:27 BDT
AMAZING GRACE
-------------
1. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved awretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see

2. T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my Years relieved
How Precious did that Grace appear, the hour I first believed

3. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.
'tis Grace that brought me sage this far, and Grace will lead me home.

4. When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days, to sing God's praise, than when we first begun.

I don't see any line which says, 'you get away with everything because Jesus was crucified'. I do see something about fearing God, which hints to me that one fears God's Justice, or the Punishment of God - I mean, if we get away with everything, what is there to fear? Well, ok ...

First of all, in the post above Bono compares the law of Karma to the law of action and reaction in physics. However, the comparison is not based on a solid understanding of the things discussed. (I spent three years at university studying chemistry, and during the two first semester, a physics - which I got several A's for - has Bono done this, really studied these things? - and then I had a nervous breakdown and have been studying buddhism, and other religions, with the same passion for the last six years, since the breakdown). Ok, to sum up, If I stand on a wooden floor for instance, and jump up, then the planks under my feet also bend down a bit, as a result of me 'taking of' - this is the law of action and reaction. It is a part of this law that the planks under me bend down the very instant that I jump, and not five hours later or so. I mean, just imagine that. You walk up a creaky stair, and then it starts creaking some ten minutes later(!) - that's not the way it works, I mean, come on. It works right away. However, the law of karma, you get what you deserve, does have a time delay involved, so that if you do something wrong, sometimes it takes hours or even days before the punishment 'comes' or is administered. The law of action-reaction is an instant thing, the law of karma is not strictly - the punishment often comes over time and not instantly. This can be verified by personal experience, by paying close attention to the way things are. Why say this? Because it makes it clear that Bono doesn't really have a truthful understanding of these things, and so long as that is the case, the things which he states suffers under that lack of understanding/truth. I feel this makes for confusion, not clarity or true understanding.

Bono: 'I am holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, ...". That states, basically, that he doesn't know whether this is the truth or not, (which my experience tells me it is not) but that he believes in it, he is just hoping for it - i.e. he doesn't know for sure if it works, and the reason for believing this is that he then gets away with the bad things he has done - very convenient, how very convenient for him, which could be why he thinks that way. On the other hand, he also says: "It's clear to me that Karma is
at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it." Well, if that is true, then how can he believe that it is possible to get away with things at the same time?

My point is, I feel that Bono's version of truth is in the wrong here, and I have to oppose it. However, since he may have learned things since then it isn't an attack on his personality, or him personally, but to clarify or get to the truth of things.

If there is such a thing as Grace, and it is dependable, then we should be able to formulate a Law of Grace, exactly like the Law of Karma. How would that law sound? You get away with everything, because Jesus got crucified? Well, that is diametrically opposed to the Law of Karma (You get what you deserve), and so it should be possible, by paying careful attention to what actually happens, to know which of the two goes - careful observation should be able to tell us which is true, and which is not. Basically, when you do something bad, you either get some punishment, or you don't. What ACTUALLY happens tells us which law is true - the Law of Grace or the Law of Karma. Well, what does your personal observations tell you? Which is true? Please let me know, I find it very interesting since I have spent quite a bit of time observing the law of karma, and in my experience, I don't get away with ANYTHING, there is always a price, sometimes I just busy myself so that I don't feel it. But careful observation is key, also in buddhist scripture there are various ways that the punishment can come in the form of mental disease states - sometimes the punishment is purely mental. It is very interesting to study these things. For me, it was completely new knowledge.

Also, in a recent translation of the Bible, it is corrected that Jesus did not cry out 'My Lord, My Lord, why have you forsaken me' on the cross, but rather: "My Lord, My Lord, for this I was spared!". The book is written by George M. Lamsa, and you can find it on amazon.com, where you can see these words on the preview pages. Where does the word "Grace" come from? Who came up with it? And is it true to the words of Jesus. To me, not only fair but crucial questions.

The Reformation in Europe started with Martin Luther, I believe, and though I haven't studied his teachings or life (yet at least...) I have seen the movie called 'Luther', which is sponsored by Lutherans, so I hope that it is an accurate and true account of his central teachings. There is NO mention of Grace in any way in that movie, it is a movie, however, about doing good things for the poor rather than giving money (to buy indulgences to get out of purgatory or hell) needlessly to the church, and also about translating the Bible so that people don't get it in Latin, but in their own language, so that they can understand rather than have the church impose various laws and rules which the general public can't understand. Which I think is a good idea, a very good idea - it sets people free, basically. It puts virtue back in the hands and hearts of the people, they can have a say, choose for themselves what is truly right or wrong, instead of greedy priests. Luther was persecuted, much as Jesus was, by the way - because be accused the priests of his day of wicked or lacking practice.

Also, if John Newton did things to end slavery, I am all for that. It is a good thing that there is no slavery, people should answer to God, not the greedy inhuman will of another human being. Just to be clear, by saying I don't believe in Grace, I am not saying that I am against what John Newton did to help slaves or other people in bad circumstances when I say I don't believe in this Grace stuff. What he did sounds truly amazing.

Finally, let me say that I enjoy very much the replies that you all have posted, by talking to you I have had opened up new areas of study for me, I will be looking into the 'Grace'-thing when I come around to it, so thank you very much for showing me new things, and also for explaining them, or at least as much as can be explained on half a page of words or so. Also, if you will explain these things better I would be very grateful. It sounds like a truly vital thing to understand, or know something about.

Also, I am struggling with developing my own character, so any mistakes, or words written in anger or spite, I apologize for and hope they can be forgiven. The point is to promote understanding of truth, not to arouse other people's resentment or anger. So, Sorry, and

Thank you,

Sincerely, a guy who loves scripture, and the spirit of scripture.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jul 2007 19:44:29 BDT
S. Gilmore says:
Good post Jesper.

The hymn you quoted uses 'fear' in the sense of respect, not 'terror' - it's a fear, or awe, of something great. Also, grace is not about 'getting away with everything because Jesus was crucified' - but this is just a hymn, so it can't include a full sermon...

If I may say so, I think you push Bono's analogy a bit too far - I think he just meant that if you stand on a floor and jump, the floor bends - so there's a reaction to what you do. I don't imagine that he meant to make an analogy with the timing.

I've been trying to think of an analogy with grace - I haven't quite got it nailed yet, but I'll post if/when I do... thanks for setting the challenge!!!

Right, I'm off to think...

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2007 00:11:28 BDT
Piers says:
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In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2007 23:40:54 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2007 00:07:43 BDT
To S. Gilmore.
--------------
Thank you for correcting me, I guess I was overboard with how important the perfect 'alignment' of these two laws were, still think it is important to have clarity - I don't know if that was the impression that Bono made on me, he seems to be rather vague on the 'Grace' part. But as you say, it is not so important. I can see that, even when I was making the reply, I was tired and had trouble collecting my thoughts.

Also, it is not a full sermon, yes, but it is his most famous contribution to the world, so I would expect it to contain the essence of his findings or teachings. It would be nice if someone would clarify this. We are all looking for truth - even, even if we don't think we are, I think. I look very much forward to learning more about this whole thing - if not here I will have to get books on this matter.

To Piers
--------
First of all, My name is Jesper, not 'Master of my own delusions'. You wouldn't like it if I called you Dear Mr. Arrogant Prick, for example. So please, let it be that, and keep it more friendly from now on. And by the way, I didn't mean anything by it, you seem like a very passionate individual, perhaps hot headed because this is a very important issue to you - I feel it is very important too, so let's approach it in that spirit.

Ok, in response, let me say that I DO believe that God and Hell exists - I just don't believe that God is floating around somewhere in outer space, or that Hell is some 'place' that I (or anyone else) get to when we die. I have experienced very clearly, in my soul, spirit or psyche, that there is a need for me to serve justice or be just, or I do not feel right about myself - this need is what I would call God, however, I do not have a clear experience that this comes from some cosmic omnipotent being, but rather from myself, my own (real, truest) nature. So that is what God is to me - something REAL, TANGIBLE, not something delusional. Hell, for me, is when I do something I shouldn't have to someone else, and I then feel bad about myself, or start of various disease states in my mind and heart, primarily as lust or hatred, but also depression or paralysis of mind - these states of mind lead me down directions it is not in my own best interest to go. The presence of these things in me is what I consider Hell. They make me sick, cripple me or ruin my ability to live and feel good about myself - Hence these states are ... Hell..! They are could aptly be called Living Death.

Do you agree with this or not? Please let me know.

You realize that atheism is a crutch for the weak. Well, since I am weak, and you by implications is the strong one, please explain yourself more clearly for my benefit. You talk of absolutes - what ARE these absolutes? Perhaps if you mentioned them we would find ourselves in perfect agreement, rather than as opponents. I am looking for truth - something that works, leads to a salvation of some kind, I guess you could say. Please respond by saying what these absolutes you refer to are. I would love to hear, truly.

I understand what you say, when you say that if we all define our own absolutes, then there are no absolutes - unless we all define the same ones, and they are in agreement with truth. I, for one, used to think that I could do whatever I wanted, and get away with it - that was my absolute - I mean, if I got caught, I of course didn't get away with, but if I didn't get caught then I was homefree - that was an absolute which I believed in which has turned out to be false - I have had to face this truth. So I would like to say that I understand the need for absolutes - for common truths about the human experience, so that we do not go astay, but have better lives. However, I must say that I do not like the tone that it is being said in. Please be more civil and clear, if you will, in your response. Clarity is key.

You say that God's perspective is more important, and that when he defines absolutes, they really are absolutes. I don't believe that God defines ANYTHING, I believe that Jesus was a very very insightful and honest man, and that the truths that HE found are as close to absolutes as anything that can be found - but God, no, there is no such thing or outside entity involved anywhere in the process of finding truth (or absolutes) - it all comes down to humans. However, most people aren't honest enough with themselves or others to do it, it takes truly exceptionel men to find truth, especially inner truths - people like Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed - I really respect all these men, because they have a very truthful insight into things. But God, no he isn't necessary for these men to make these insight or discoveries, to see these truths clearly. I feel that this in no way subtracts from the power or importance of the bible, but in a sense adds to it, because it comes from our common human heritage, from exceptional people, not some divine source beyond ordinary people. This is how I feel about it. How about you?

Also, I have discovered these things the hard way. I have had a severe nervous breakdown, mostly because I failed to heed the advice on how to behave given in the bible. So I know, and I know the hard way. And I should say that my deluded world HAS fallen apart - I am trying to put something back together that works - something based on truth. However, you have not said anything which is useful to me, just that I am ignorant, basically. Please elaborate in a spirit of generosity, as I (believe myself to) have done. Also, I need more than blind dogma, I need to hear about these things from your own experience, else my experience tells me that they don't have much impact.

Sincerely, a guy who loves scripture, and the spirit of scripture.
Also, I am not the only author of these thoughts, it is a mix of scriptural study and personal experience, so any mistakes in terms of scriptural interpretation belong to me, not Jesus, Buddha, etc.

ps. It is late, and I apologize for any repetitions or some-such. Plus, I am not the best at this, my have a hard time putting my thoughts together into perfect coherence. I hope the meaning doesn't suffer. Anyways, thank you for the reply, it has definitely added to the discussion, I feel. The issue of absolutes IS important.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2007 12:44:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2007 13:00:50 BDT
S. Gilmore says:
Jesper said:
"First of all, My name is Jesper, not 'Master of my own delusions'. You wouldn't like it if I called you Dear Mr. Arrogant Prick, for example."

This made me giggle.

I am interested in Piers comment that 'atheism is a crutch for the weak' since exactly the same thing is often said about faith. But never mind.

Jesper, I've been trying to think of an analogy for grace that goes with Bono's analogy for karma, but I've failed :( so I'll try to explain it differently.

So here's my attempt to explain. The Bible talks about humans being in a state of sin - sin being turning against God, or rebelling against Him (actively or passively). This state is not how we're supposed to be - we were made to be 'in step' with God, if that makes sense. Being 'in step', or walking with God (which is often hideously interpreted to mean being goody-goody or whatever) is the condition in which we receive the blessings God wants to give us - whereas if we're running away, then he can fling blessings at us but we'll probably not see them or pick them up. The question is how to get back in step.

A lot of people (including some Christians) think the way to do this is to try really hard to be good. So they think it's like karma, where if you are good, then you get good stuff happening to you, and if you're bad then bad stuff happens.

Now, I think that karma 'works' in one sense, since, to give a very basic example, if you're nice to someone then they're more likely to be nice back to you. I think it's a very basic cause and effect thing, like Bono was saying. We can see it in action - go and punch someone in the street and he'll probably punch you back, or you'll get arrested or soemthing.

But I don't think it's 'the rule' that governs the universe, partly because it's not what the Bible seems to say (nor is it what Christ seemed to be saying) and partly because it's too basic. The Bible doesn't say that if we are good then God will reward us and if we are bad then he will punish us. It says that God wants to give blessing to everyone, but it's only when we're properly in step with Him that we fully receive the blessings (one of which is eternal life, but that's not the whole story).

So, how to get in step with God is the important question, and if it's not done by being good, then how does it happen. The Bible says that it happens for those who admit that they need it (so they see that they do bad stuff, and they are sorry), and it happens because Jesus died and so dealt with our sins (which takes us into a whole other area of theology, which would really be getting off the point). This is what's known as 'grace' - God's gift of forgiveness, which takes away the 'threat' of sin and bad stuff putting us out of step with God - it means that God has brought us back in step and will keep us there (even if we slip up from time to time, or a lot).

Does that make any sense?

To give an analogy:
Some people think that you just have to be good, and that doing 'religious stuff' helps you to be good. So in that sense, they think it's like a crutch that helps you to walk across the room from 'sin' or whatever they call it, to God. So you made it to God by His help. But that's more like karma because it involves us doing the right things and then God reacting and helping us; equally if we do bad things, then we thing God abandons us and we fall over and we're back to the start.

Grace, on the other hand, is like something that just lifts us and takes us. I've heard an analogy that we're like a caterpillar surrounded by a ring of fir - we can't help ourselves at all; we have no way of getting out. But grace is like God coming and lifting us out to 'safety'.

Of course grace can be abused; there are lots of things in the Bible that talk about that, but ultimately, if we want to turn to God then grace is the way to do it. Abusing grace is not really possible - we can say we've been lifted out of the ring of fire and then do what we want, but we only get lifted out if we have that intention of keeping in step with God.

Don't know if that makes any sense at all, feel free to come back at me!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2007 00:23:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jul 2007 13:43:25 BDT
To S. Gilmore
-------------

Hello again. First of all, good to hear from, second, here's my reply:

Hmm, you say that Bible talks about people being in a state of sin. Is this a particular place you are talking about, or the way that you would sum up the gist of the entire thing? Or a personal conclusion? What are your influences - Buddha, Mohammed, Hinduism, Christianity (obviously - but only the bible, or the works of saints also)? I would like to hear, also, to be absolutely clear. My influence is most strongly based of the bible and buddhism (hence I am big on the law of karma) but also a little of the Koran and quite a bit of the Bhagavad Gita, Hindu scripture. I think that's it. Also, I agree with this, as I see that in myself all the time - that I am not the way I am supposed to be - I make 'bad' choices in relating to others when I should be making the right ones.

Your formulation that God wants to give us blessings, but if we go against him then he can't give them to us resonates incredibly well with my discoveries from buddhist mindfulness exercises. Basically, when I do something bad to others (perform bad karma, karma = action) then it has negative consequences for me (bad vipaka, vipaka = consequence). Now, in particular, say I give someone a bad face or say something bad - if I am in the supermarket, then I will start thinking of wanting unhealthy foods and the thought of healthy foods is far from my mind. On the other hand, if I treat someone else good, or right, then I automatically breeze to the healthy section, get the stuff I really need and leave, hardly even noticing the bad foods. This is an observation I have made over and over, and I feel that I can say that it has been so in every instance that I have observed, but also that it is perfect agreement with the law of karma, or God's Justice, so I feel that I am onto something here. To give an everyday example that you may also be able to experiment with. To see also that being good vs. "evil" has very profound consequences for our ability to make choices in a situation with multiple choices - in a sense, to make the most of freedom.

Also, to relate a story from my life, which I cannot share with anything but words. I go to a school, where we do sports 3 times a week, and my teacher, a Lady of about 40, always has a smile for everyone and looks good, come rain or shine. But one day she had to see the dentist because he had done something wrong on the last visit, so she had to undergo a rather painful procedure. The dentist of course said he was extremely sorry - it was a root canal I think, and she just said that to her it didn't matter, just make it alright and don't worry about it. Well, the next day she showed at school, and she looked like an angel, she had put up her hair just so nice, and she wore the best clothes - she was the most beautiful woman I had ever been in the presence of, on that day. My guess is, that because she acted like an angel, she naturally felt like an angel, and so she naturally dressed like an angel. She made the very most of freedom, by being good or very nice instead of trouble or nagging. I feel this is the source behind true/real beauty. But I can't tell you how she looked - but she looked better than any 20-year-old I had ever seen, and she was 40 - I tell you, she was prettier than an ... Angel! Good karma is the way to good things, it seems to me - and we seem to give them to ourselves, it is not from God, I think. I think that when we are good to others, we open up and can be good to ourselves. She certainly was a vision that day, my God she looked amazing, just amazing. Anyways, just a story from my life. Have you got any stories like this?

Moving on now... One of my key question is, WHY am I in that state of sin? What are your thoughts on this point? I have tried to observe myself, find the answer, and so far I only have loosely stated theories - that it is because I want power or fame, to be something more than others or above them, to have them look up to me/"worship" me. This sounds very close to what Jesus experienced in the cave, when the Devil took him up unto that mountain and said 'All this I will give you if you will worship me!" and Jesus "Begone, serve God and God alone!". Anyways, just to tie it in with scripture.

Anyways, you say that you think karma works in the particular way, that if you hit someone, he may well hit you back, or at least you have lost a good friend. This is obviously the case - but if you look at the psychological consequences on yourself, you will find that there are also some in this area. Buddhism states five polluted states of spirit that occur when one does something bad - lust, hatred, paralysis of mind, mania of mind, and doubt or indecision. When I do something bad to others, I find these states become part of me for a while, until I do something good again, or until they drift away by themselves, like rain clouds. Sin (and virtue) has a half-life, a time before they decay - this is my experience. Anyways, thought this might be interesting to you, so you could understand God's justice more clearly, at least the way I have come to see it. When you dance with the devil, the devil dances with you, I would say.

I don't believe, as you also mean, that the law of karma rules the entire universe - but I do think, after much observation, that beneath any denial I might have, that it is the law that determines how my soul turns out - happy or miserable, healthy or diseased. And of course, whether or not one has a healthy or diseased mind has a very profound effect on ones' outer life, and ability to make something out of life. A depressed person doesn't get as much out of life as a happy and energetic person, for example. So, in my view, not the entire universe, just ... us, how we are and what we get - to me, as person who lives, struggles and hopes - this is really what matters to me, not if it was a big band or the hand of God that started it all, but what this very life, MY very life, ends up being, turns out being! It is the law which determines how humans end up, not how the universe evolved or something like. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed liveed in a time when there was no noteworthy science compared to today, but they knew PEOPLE and the REALITY OF people. This is available to anyone, anywhere, who will listen closely enough to that truth. And the law of karma, or saying that there is a God who punishes evil, sums it up pretty well.

Also, if Jesus took away our sins on the cross, why would he say "Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do?" to his final tormentors? I mean, they would automatically have been forgiven when he died right - no more punishment. I think that Grace, if what we are talking about here really is Grace as it is understood by truly religious people - I mean, Bono can't be considered an absolute and indisputable source of religious truth, can he? I mean, sex, drugs and rock'n roll - and mammon up to the gazoots, no, he can't be considered reliable in view of what Jesus says in the Bible about God and Mammon - I would allow myself to conclude that, perhaps prematurely, but nonetheless...

Also, it is not clear to me if what you mean by Grace is that we get away with our sins, or if we have to answer to them and so simply should avoid them? I can't seem to understand what you really think is the 'real' TRUTH. Please, just come out and say what you really mean, as clearly and precisely as you can - and if you are not clear, just say that too, I'm open to anything. Just what you believe in, flat out. I would like to know, it would make for a smoother exchange, I feel.

Sincerely,

A man who loves scripture, and the spirit of scripture.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2007 19:24:54 BDT
J. Kinory says:
"for a long time it looked as though the law was going to suggest that religious organisations would not be allowed to safeguard the nature of their organisation by discriminating amongst possible candidates for posts, or being able to remove somebody from a post if it turned out that they no longer believed things that were consistent with the nature of the organisation."

A typical non sequitur and strawman. The law does NOT suggest that, and never did. I know, because I was involved in an industrial tribunal that considered this very point.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2007 19:27:10 BDT
J. Kinory says:
"I realise that atheism is something of a crutch for the weak, and especially for those who want the freedom to define their own absolutes"

What nonsense. The freedom to define your own beliefs (throwing in the word 'absolutes' is typical lawyer-speak: no atheist is claiming anything of the sort) is strength. not weakness. Unless you care to offer the slightest corroboration for this bizzare assertion ...

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2007 00:55:46 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Jul 2007 00:57:22 BDT
To define your OWN absolutes only lead to strength IF, IF, IF the absolutes you define (and so live by) actually ARE a source of strength, and not weakness. Many, many people get it wrong, and the bible is an early attempt to give people absolutes that will help them, not destroy them or lead to ruin. What absolutes would you define to give you strength? Indulging any and every sexual urge - also called free love - or some degree of chastity, recognizing that uncontrolled sexual recklessness can lead people into ruin - teenage pregnancies, for instance, are a good point. Wouldn't it have been better to wait, both for the mother and the child, until the mother was a little older and established with a job and a decent place to stay? and raise a child? It is important to realize that the church is not against sex, it is just against the sex that leads to ruin or cause suffering. What else would it possibly be? If you follow the advice in the bible you will avoid a lot of problems and regrets - I think that for this reason it is highly usable, not to be swept away in a sudden rush of atheism. Anyways, this is just my personal perspective, I am not trying to impose religion on you. However, I think it is important to try and 'save' or 'heal' people, whether or not I or they be religious or atheist. Can we agree on this?

Jesper.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jul 2007 12:38:26 BDT
S. Gilmore says:
Hi Jesper,

thanks for your response to my comment. I was interested to read your thoughts, especially the stuff on Buddhism - I don't know a whole lot about Buddhism, so it's interesting to learn more.

I apologise for not replying sooner, and even now I don't have a lot of time, so I'll summerise what are my main reponses to your questions.

My beliefs come from reading the Bible, and trying to understand it. Obviously, I've not got it all figured out yet, so it's good to have someone asking questions to help me clarify what I think. I apologise if I can't answer everything, but hey!

My starting point is God, and I believe that I can learn about Him from the Bible. The Bible doesn't prove he exists (that's a separate discussion), it assumes He does, but it talks about what He's like. It talks about Him creating the earth in a way that's orderly and good, and He declares everything in it to be good. God Himself is described as 'holy', which basically means He is 'something separate' from us - so He's not like us, or like anything we could imagine, although we are made in some way to reflect His image. We should also strive to follow Him and worship Him in the way He deserves. This means enjoying the good things he's given us, and not abusing them. It also means that we are not to put ourselves first and just do what we feel like doing - God has set down rules and guidelines for living and we should follow those. We should not think taht we are more important than God or that we can just make up the rules.

So sin is basically turning away from that - some people say it is like taking the crown off God's head and putting it on our own - we act as if we were in charge, we exploit good stuff to satisfy our own needs (things like nature, sex, love...) and we ignore what God has said about them. So, in some ways sin is deliberate acts where we go against God's will (whether we do it consciously or not), but in another sense it's like an attitude of not caring what God's way is. And this is deliberate rebellion against God. Because God is holy, He can't let this go unpunished - otherwise He wouldn't be just.

In many way this also leaves us as slaves to our own desires - we do whatever we want. Of course, this may not degenerate into anything that we see as 'really bad' - we can still be civilised people - but it is still governed by US deciding what's right and wrong and what we'll do. So what you asked about why are we in a state of sin, I think it is because of being a slave to ourselves instead of obeying God.

So that's sin - does that make sense? Like I said, I still have much thinking to do here, so anything that you can throw back to sharpen my thoughts would be appreciated.

Then, coming to Jesus - the Bible talks a lot about how sin can be forgiven. Of course God cannot just forgive sin - it's too big. I think we can't really understand this unless we realise more of what God is like - that He is infinitely good and holy and just and loving and all of that. When we realise this, we see how wrong our attitude is and how bad it is to take God's crown and put it on ourselves. There has to be a kind of punishment, or retribution for that, and that's what God said would happen.

Jesus' death was to take the punishment for sin, so that sin could be forgiven. But this is not automatic - people who chose to reject Jesus also reject the forgiveness that's available through him. But by choosing to accept Jesus' death, we find forgiveness of sins - this shows God's grace because we don't actually do anything to earn it. But when we do this, we're essentially giving God His crown back and saying that we'll go His way. So that involves a change of attitude. We should be trying not to sin (this is where the Holy Spirit comes in, to help us), but even if we do, we know that we are forgiven.

So again, it's an attitude. It's not about just 'praying a prayer' for God to forgive you, but hanging on to our old ways - it's about changing our attitude to go God's way.

There is loads more in there as well, but this would get really complicated if I went into it all... but do ask if you want to.

The thing about this is that Christianity is actually freeing - people act as if it enslaves you to a set of rules, but in fact, when it is followed as it should be, it frees us from being slaves to our own whims and wants. Instead we have freedom to do God's will - and that's not a set of rules, it is a wide open space in which we really have freedom to choose, and to try things, and even to make mistakes, because we know we're forgiven.

Does that make any more sense?
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The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister McGrath (Paperback - 16 Feb 2007)
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